Tag Archives: ikea kitchen

An Irish-Made Kitchen

So here’s the deal. Yes, the HDF was kitchen cabinet doors. I’ve been told that it is a suitable material for cabinetry. I hope I was told right.


And the rest of the deal. What I said about being burnt out from tedious work and a messy house was true. I was absolutely ready to live my life unencumbered by house projects. The house had gotten a thorough cleaning and I had friends coming for dinner. And the Irishman needed a job and begged me to let him make my cabinet doors. I relented and on my first day of freedom he set up his cutting station on the sidewalk. And as the doors came through the saw he brought them in and dropped them onto my clean countertops. I told him that friends were coming over to cook and started moving them into the basement stairwell. He said, “I need them where I can get to them.”

A bit later on he asked me, “Where are you taking your friends tonight?”

Now let’s back up to how the project was planned, aside from the fact that it wasn’t. I had a few things oddly laid out: wall cabinets stacked 2 high and cut to non-standard sizes, fillers scribed to fit tilted walls, toe kicks scribed to fit sloping floors, a plinth holding the stove level, and a split-height peninsula room divider. The plan was to get a shop to make these, and I was gonna start with Semihandmade, a company that makes custom fronts for IKEA cabinets. The Irishman told me a while ago that he’d make them for me and slash Semihandmade’s price. At the time I think he had access to a shop. This spring, not so much.

And all these conditions came together to create a few of the greatest horrors I’ve endured since buying the Crooked House. First, he used the sidewalk in front of my house, shielded by an awning, as his shop. He had materials stored there under a tarp for the whole project, making my house an official nuisance property. No one reported me though.


And my living room became his lay down area.

Then there were his wildly unrealistic expectations about how fast he could work without a proper shop plus our usual agreement that I’d pay him for his time meant that I had a terrifying series of promises of cheapness and fastness followed by him hitting me up for more money. At one point I cut him off and he threatened to walk. I wondered when to cut my losses and put the stuff in the basement.

The Irishman started working shorter days. My fuse shortened more than his days. I started berating him every time he told me he was taking a break. People at the office heard me. He took offense that I was mad at him. Finally, it was my mom who intervened. She read my bank statement and totaled up the ATM withdrawals that paid him. Only she knows. I don’t want to. But now the Irishman decided that he owes me forever, that he’ll finish the job dutifully, that he’ll take on a litany of other projects, and that there’ll never again be a copper between us. (Read that sentence with a thick brogue.) I don’t know how she manages to slay like this over and over again. (The gun is plastic)


Anyways, one week became… 6 1/2. My plans to enjoy spring fell through. My plans to pay off Phase 1 are delayed a solid 6 months. But I’m a big step closer to a finished kitchen. Was it worth it? No way. Anyways, I’m desperate for a break. Maybe a long one. But the Irishman says he owes me work and I’m not about to miss collecting the debt. We’ll see how I do both. In the meantime, I should have my house back tomorrow – guess what that means I’ll be doing!

Happy woman cleaning

(I won’t be holding my balance on one foot in heels.)


April Fools! And yay for organized storage!

First of all, that last post was totally fake. Maybe my April Fools jokes are too subtle, but if you may notice that I did many, many things that were not cost effective to try to preserve or recreate my house’s character, and the facade is the very last thing I would want to modernize. If the original one fell off I’m not sure what I’d do but short of that it stays, period. And although I’m not wholly against panel siding, it’s gotten to be an unimaginative cookie cutter look. According to the architecture column in the Philadelphia Inquirer, it is “now the default on developer-built apartment buildings. That isn’t architecture; it’s a colorful form of weatherproofing.” (Incidentally, she said that here, rightly skewering a bland replacement for an art deco landmark.)

Back to the real world, my plywood drawer fronts are coming along! I told you about a lot of what got the place ready for a roommate but left out the most important part: the first 7 kitchen drawers. I’m putting as many drawers as possible in my base cabinets and it’s amazing. To make them fit, I went to IKEA and measured out the real ones. Then I had to drill out the backs to make them look like store bought fronts. And I made a lot of mistakes, most of which don’t show.


Before everything was either inaccessible or sitting out in clay pots. They were kinda charming and definitely the best I could do at the time.


And now I have this!


So the flat plywood fronts are working out better than I thought they would. I screwed up drilling holes into a few of them so I have a little patching and repainting to do but for now it’s much, much improved. And I love the way things fit now. So much.

Like these drawer dividers. They look like filing cabinets, but in a good way. And they really help things fit together.


And this drawer that is JUST the right size!



And this empty strip of countertop! The 4 drawers next to the dishwasher just went in today. They weren’t as important as the first 7 until the first 7 went in and I really wanted to finish the job.


Plus getting the upper cabinets cleared out and organized. It looks like I have room for china now! (I also got the exhaust fan vent hooked up, finally.)


Seriously, it’s so great.


And I’ve started to sorta arrange the crystal in the display cabinet! Ignore the pile of candles.


I kinda wanted to bring over china right away, but it was clearly smarter to hold off on that. I want to add little bits of trim to the shelves in that cabinet above so I can stand up plates in the back. And then I think I’ll paint it the same blue as my fronts and maybe get brave and make homemade glass doors. Am I up to the task?

And what do we say about the brass knobs? I’ll need to buy 4-6 more to finish off the lower cabinets.


The Irishman Giveth, The Irishman Taketh Away

To be fair, he didn’t actually take anything from me. He gave me 3 great days this week. I think that’s it, so lots of stuff is done, but there’s chaos everywhere and I’ve left it where it was for 4 days. Because there was this holiday I totally ignored. Then I decided not to ignore it on Christmas Eve and threw just enough together to save face.

So, Monday he came and we got the dryer vent pipe through the corner cabinet. But it wasn’t all smooth sailing. He bored through a wire. Panic ensued, but we were able to free it from the spray foam with enough slack to add a junction box in the cabinet and everything is fine. Tedious, but it’s done! You can barely even see this stuff with the carousel in place.


Then he installed the higher base cabinet for that room divider I was talking about and all the woodwork in the living room! We actually have more done now including the trim at the top of the big opening, but I forgot to get a picture. I opted for dish storage on this side of the peninsula because I don’t really like stools, but this is high enough that I can eat standing if the table is set. That means it’s too high for short people.


Some of you were a little confused about my wordy description of the awkward corner where the peninsula has 2 heights and wraps around the pipe chase and door casing. Here’s what it looks like in real life. Not so bad, right?


And here’s the best view I have of the whole room. I have enough of that Formica to splice on pieces at both ends of the L you can see, and to do one side of the stove. The other side of the stove is going to get more of the free oak I have on the bar top. I think I’ll want the oak to the right near the door. Sometime later I’ll upgrade the work areas to all one material but probably keep the oak bar top for good. Do you agree with all this?


Then, remember how the floor slants? Well, my counters are near the standard 36 inch height at one end of the room, but then over here they’re a solid 3 inches higher. Which I love. But it means that the whole kitchen is not for short people. And then my wall cabinets are so high I can’t reach them without a stool. But my 9 foot ceilings are basically the only place where my house gave me more than minimum sizes (or below today’s minimums) so I have to use it. I’ll also need to shim up these cabinets a weensy bit.


There are a lot of loose ends to tie up but overall I’m pretty happy!

Finally, the bottom half of the kitchen!

All right, Day 1 of my 16 day “vacation” was mostly figuring out how to do this kitchen job. Remember my old 3D rendering? It still comes pretty close to what I’ll be getting. The room shrank a little bit and I put in upper cabinets that I didn’t bother to show back then, but the base cabinets are almost exactly as planned. Just picture another cabinet facing you on the back side of that peninsula.

kitchen rendering

But I had to refine the design now that I know exactly where my walls ended up. So here it is with dimensions and construction notes. And yes, lots of refinement.


The big problem spot here is the dead space right around the pipe chase. The cabinets don’t fit perfectly. Because I’m not spending 3 times my net worth on custom cabinetry. So that means I’m gonna have a gap shaped like Oklahoma in the back of my peninsula.


The space on the living room side is easy to fix. I am installing wood casing around the big opening between the living room and the kitchen, so I’m just building the opening to exactly the size that fits my cabinets. The top of this doorway will be at exactly the same height as the window. With the cabinets assembled you can already see it! Right?



Around the other side it’s more complicated. The cabinet facing the living room is actually supposed to go on a wall. I want it taller to hide the stack of dishes in my sink. And from this angle that stack is already hidden!

The problem is that I need to cover the back side of the taller bar top/china cabinet with better wood than IKEA’s flimsy backings and attach the cabinets to each other in a non-standard way. IKEA’s cabinets have these brackets that fit into rails on the walls. This is amazing for my non-level floors.


But I’m thinking that the solution here is to take them off of the cabinets you can see above and just screw cabinet grade plywood right into the cabinets with trim head screws. The standard hardware leaves a little gap behind the cabinets. I’ll just make it all flush and try to make that piece of plywood super sturdy. And then I’ll hang the wall-turned-into-base cabinet off of it. I’ll build a plinth for that cabinet to sit on since it’s not drilled for legs like the others.

This solves another funny problem. The cabinets stop just a teeny bit short of the corner. I thought about adding a filler strip in the middle of the run of cabinets to make them fit the room, but that would be ugly. So instead, I’m going to run the plywood all the way over and leave a little dead space between the carousel and the pipe chase. That means the higher bar top will look like this. I think it looks more awkward on paper than it will in real life.


Then I’m also adding a dryer vent to the back of my carousel cabinet. My laundry facilities will be in the basement, but the basement is fully underground at the back. And I’m not willing to board up a basement window or bore a hole in the marble base of my façade like most people do. Luckily, the completely useless dead space at the back of the carousel cabinet is just big enough!


And here’s this peninsula arrangement from the other side. Tell me what you think. Even though I’m not changing it now that the cabinets are non-returnable. The main cabinets will be about 5 inches higher. I can cheat the other one as I please.


The Kitchen: Released for Construction

This is the weekend when the pope comes to Philly, and I’ve made plans to get out of Dodge. But that doesn’t mean nothing is happening to my house. The Irishman has the opposite plan: he’s not leaving South Philly, and he’ll be keeping busy by doing (the top half of) my kitchen! I put together a few last minute sketches to discuss exactly how the cabinets will meet the walls. He asked for a little more detail than I provided in the crude sketch I made before. And then when I remembered that we had this stamp at work, I COULD NOT RESIST.


Will this come together without a hitch? Well… have a look!


But I have another problem. I can’t afford appliances. The stove was in rough shape to begin with so I didn’t bother protecting it when I tore the kitchen ceilings down and now it’s really bad.


But my friend Eugene came to the rescue. He lives about 3 blocks away in a house very much like mine, though it’s bigger. And he just got a loan for a total gut remodel that’s set to begin in October. So here you’re looking at my new kitchen! Sorta. I’m now taking his countertops, sink, faucet, and garbage disposal. Pretty exciting! So these countertops will definitely go in my Phase 1 kitchen. The appliances likely will, too, but I have other options. It comes down to which stove is worse.


For the appliances, I was just gonna let them all be white until I saw that he just has a normal range hood. So no matter what I use, the black over-the-range microwave that came with my house is going in. His stove is a little better than mine but it’s not great. I have a black dishwasher and a stainless steel fridge available to me if I want them… and I don’t have a lot of time to choose as both sets are coming out of places that are being gutted.

As for the counter tops, remember that granite that’s still sitting on my parents’ driveway? The one that caused us to put a dent into my parents’ car? Now all that was for nothing because I decided it’s not even worth the trouble of cutting up to reuse. It’s going on Craigslist once I know for sure. And it gets a little worse. My dad sealed the driveway, and the granite was too heavy to move so he just painted around it. So when the slab disappears there will be a very obvious mark there. At the very least, it makes me smile that I’ve turned my nose up at granite and taken beat up powder blue Formica.